Reports: Sarah Thomas to be NFL's first female full-time official

ByJane McManus ESPN logo
Friday, April 3, 2015

Former Conference USA official Sarah Thomas is set to become the NFL's first female full-time official, The Baltimore Sun tweeted on Friday. An NFL spokesman would not confirm Thomas' hiring, saying that this year's roster of officials is not yet complete.

The Los Angeles Times reported later on Friday that Thomas would be among eight new officials for the 2015 season.

Thomas has officiated NFL preseason games as a line judge while in the league's training program.

Technically, replacement referee Shannon Eastin was the first woman to officiate an NFL game during the 2012 lockout. But breaking that barrier wasn't why Thomas got in the game, she told espnW in 2013.

"The thing is, I've never set out to be the first, and that hasn't changed," said Thomas, who first started officiating football games in 1996. "I do this because I love it."

The NFL identifies promising college referees and Thomas has been in the NFL pipeline since 2013, although the NFL saw her potential long before that. She was on a course to be part of the NFL's training program, but an unexpected pregnancy in 2012 meant spending the season off the field before working her way back.

The mother of three got her start in officiating when she accompanied her brother to a meeting for people interested in calling football games. Then, Thomas was the only woman in the room, but she isn't the only woman in the NFL's pipeline.

Last season, Thomas and head linesman Maia Chaka were both in the development program.

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